Our recent interview with Ash Thorp sparked an intense discussion here and elsewhere on the web that went well beyond Ash’s personal take on work/life. We thought it’d be a good idea to share some of those comments here.
Ash’s interview was just that: one person’s voice. We plan on sharing the perspectives of other successful professionals, many of whom have radically different approaches to the work/life issue. We’re also organizing a poll to get your voice in the mix.
The Bigger Picture
No matter with whom you identify in the comments that follow, there is a profound frustration mounting in the field of motion design. It can no longer be ignored or accepted as “just the way things are.” It needs to be brought into the open and discussed in as much detail as possible.
In many ways, this frustration is not new. Visual effects professionals, for example, have been grappling with labor issues for some time now. The Visual Effects Society is striving to define and solve pressing issues, most of which have grown out of the film industry.
A Pimply-faced Teenager
Motion design sits at an awkward intersection of animation, graphic design and visual effects, drawing on the histories and business models of each of those disciplines. As a definable “industry,” motion design is young. Dedicated motion studios and practitioners didn’t arise in large numbers until the early 2000s. Before then, the field was dominated by post houses who sometimes had a few “motion guys” on staff. (This model still persists, but it’s much less prevalent. There are also many more “motion ladies” these days.)
Motion design has its own set of problems, its own unique challenges — not the least of which are defining itself and delineating its boundaries. It’s a lot like your typical pimply faced teenager dealing with the angst of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. During this time, every decision has formative potential, shaping the future of the field in ways that won’t be obvious for years to come.
What follows is a sample of comments from Motionographer’s interview with Ash Thorp. We’ve tried to present the full spectrum of perspectives.
Cathartic to read his thoughts on balancing life and work. I’m just now making my own transition, adjusting priorities for our newborn daughter. Right on the money.
Long hours are unfortunately a part of our industry, but voices acknowledging this will hopefully shed some new light on how we can balance our personal life and work life. I’d like to think one day my daughter will understand why dad has to pull 12- to 14-hour days. This art form is an amazing thing, but at what cost one will never know.
It seems a bit extreme and not something to be celebrated without some healthy questioning. In an industry where personal recognition and career come first, before health and family, it’s a bit scary that no one stops to think … what does this kind of thing reveal about the industry?
I keep running into companies that are willing to work their artists to the ground, driving salaries down and pushing for longer days, all because of a career-first kind of mentality.
On the topic of safety and health, Brand Dougherty-Johnson chimed in:
In many industries there are rules regarding turnaround time — the time between shifts so that a worker isn’t dangerously tired and overworked. In fact just this week the VES proposed an industry bill of rights which addresses this issue: https://www.visualeffectssociety.com/visual-effects-industry-bill-of-rights
Andrew Hoeveler said:
I hope that your story will begin the big thrust that is needed to bring the working conditions of our industry to the spotlight. We have no union rights as so many other workers in the entertainment industry do. We also have very little central communication within our industry aside from this blog.
I recently moved away from over a decade of freelancing as an animator/designer in Los Angeles to a full-time position as creative director at a company that TRULY appreciates me in the smog-free and slower-paced Seattle area. Sure, I am not regularly working on as high-profile work as the fashion-chasing companies I used to work for in LA, but I am loving LIFE!
First off, Ash’s work is outstanding. But I’m troubled by people referring to this article being about “balancing work/life.” Because this is a clear example of work/life IMBALANCE.
It is entirely true that it’s hard to gain career traction & leverage in this industry without working your ass off for long hours, but we need to be honest with ourselves that it’s an essentially fucked up system that preys upon young childless and spouseless people, to the benefit of the studios (and their principals who usually make a very overly healthy income). Exploiting recent grads is crappy enough, but the worst part of it is how it marginalizes those same people once they do get married and/or have kids and, like any half-admirable human being, want to eat dinner with their family.
In response, Yusef Cole said:
This is truth. Though let’s not forget that it’s also the fault of clients & agencies shrinking project budgets and thus timelines. Not to mention the rat race of pitching endlessly for cheaper and cheaper spots. The system as it stands right now is not in great shape. And less freelancers for more hours is just a symptom.